La Rambla Stage Special Guests

“The Day of the Book Festival has grown from a neighborhood event to an international celebration that draws thousands of visitors and truly offers something for everyone. We have an amazing array of literary, musical and artistic talent lined up for this year. I love seeing kids and adults wander up and down the closed-off streets of Kensington as they talk with authors, enjoy the bands, and meet the artists. Most exciting to me is that in our increasingly digitized world, the festival demonstrates that writing and reading are alive and well!” (Steve Piacente)

Master of Ceremonies Steve Piacente. 


Stay tuned for our 2019 Special Guest Authors!

Here are our 2018 Special Guests who made last year’s festival a great success…



Special Guests include Melissa Scholes Young, Dawit Gebremichael Habte, Marc Morje Howard, Cynthia Lee Monroe,  and Trish Earnest. 

The La Rambla stage is at the corner of Howard Ave and Armory Ave.

With Music by Eli August and the Abandoned Buildings

(Scroll down for schedule)

Special Guests



Master of Ceremonies – Steve Piacente

In addition to his role as festival MC, Steve will speak about Pretender, his third novel.

In Pretender, a disgraced journalist stumbles on a story that will let him reclaim his life and career, but redemption comes with a price: he must place his faith in the racist senator he sent to prison for murder a decade earlier.

Kirkus Reviews has described Pretender as “haunting in today’s political environment.”

Steve, also a professional life coach and adjunct professor at American University, will be interviewed by fellow author and Special Guest Melissa Scholes Young

Steve is also an executive communications coach at The Communication Center in Washington, D.C., and is working on a non-fiction book aligned with his coaching practice.





Read an interview with Steve Piacente .

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Melissa Scholes Young: Novel – Flood

A sparkling debut set in Mark Twain’s boyhood town, Flood is a story of what it means to be lost . . . and found.

Leaving town when she was eighteen had been Laura’s only option. She feared a stifling existence in a town ruled by its past, its mythological devotion to Mark Twain, and the economic and racial divide that runs as deep as the Mississippi River. She can’t forget that fateful Fourth of July when the levees broke or the decisions that still haunt her. Now as the Mississippi rises again, a deep wound threatens to reopen, and Laura must decide if running away once more might be the best way to save herself.

Melissa Scholes Young was born and raised in Hannibal, Missouri, Mark Twain’s beloved​ boyhood home. She’s lived a lot of places since she left, but Hannibal is still her hometown.

Her writing has been published in the Atlantic, Washington Post, Poets & Writers, Narrative, Ploughshares, and other literary journals. She’s a Contributing Editor at Fiction Writers Review and Editor of an anthology of D.C. Women Writers, Grace in Darkness.

Melissa Scholes Young writes now from Washington, D.C. where she teaches College Writing and Creative Writing at American University. Her debut novel, FLOOD, is available from Center Street, a division of the Hachette Book Group.

She lives in Maryland with her husband, kids, and a chocolate labrador named Huckleberry Finn.




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Dawit Gebremichael Habte: Memoir – Gratitude in Low Voices

Dawit Gebremichael Habte fled his homeland of Eritrea as a teenager. In the midst of the ongoing Eritrean-Ethiopian war, Dawit and his sisters crossed illegally into Kenya. Without their parents or documents to help their passage, they experienced the abuse and neglect known by so many refugees around the world.

But Dawit refused to give up. He stayed resilient and positive. Journeying to the United States under asylum―and still a boy―Dawit found a new purpose in an unfamiliar land. Against impossible odds, he studied hard and was accepted to Johns Hopkins University, eventually landing a job as a software engineer at Bloomberg. After a few years, with the support of Michael Bloomberg himself, Dawit returned to his homeland to offer business opportunities for other Eritreans. Dawit found a way to help his ancestral land emerge from thirty years of debilitating war.

Gratitude in Low Voices is about how one man was marginalized, but how compassion and love never abandoned him. It’s about learning how to care for family, and how to honor those who help the helpless. The life of a refugee is hard, and the lives of those in war-torn lands are harder still. This account reminds us that hope is not lost.

This humble story of Dawit’s life stands out in a time when we look at immigrants as never before― a book that illuminates our decisions to help or to turn away those who land on our doorstep, and the gratitude that surely follows any act of compassion.




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Marc Morje Howard: Non-Fiction – Unusually Cruel: Prisons, Punishment, and the Real American Exceptionalism

The United States incarcerates far more people than any other country in the world, at rates nearly ten times higher than other liberal democracies. Indeed, while the U.S. is home to 5 percent of the world’s population, it contains nearly 25 percent of its prisoners. But the extent of American cruelty goes beyond simply locking people up. At every stage of the criminal justice process – plea bargaining, sentencing, prison conditions, rehabilitation, parole, and societal reentry – the U.S. is harsher and more punitive than other comparable countries. In Unusually Cruel, Marc Morjé Howard argues that the American criminal justice and prison systems are exceptional – in a truly shameful way. Although other scholars have focused on the internal dynamics that have produced this massive carceral system, Howard provides the first sustained comparative analysis that shows just how far the U.S. lies outside the norm of established democracies. And, by highlighting how other countries successfully apply less punitive and more productive policies, he provides plausible solutions to addressing America’s criminal justice quagmire.

Marc Morjé Howard is Professor of Government and Law at Georgetown University. He is the founding Director of the Prisons and Justice Initiative, which brings together scholars, practitioners, and students to examine the problem of mass incarceration from multiple perspectives. He also teaches regularly in the Prison Scholars Program at the Jessup Correctional Institution, a maximum-security prison in Maryland. His work addresses the deep challenges of contemporary democracy and the tragedy of criminal justice and prisons in America. His most recent book is Unusually Cruel:  Prisons, Punishment, and the Real American Exceptionalism (Oxford University Press, 2017).


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Cynthia Lee Monroe: Non-Fiction – Kensington Maryland’s Gasoline Alley

Kensington Maryland’s Gasoline Alley was a highly diverse, yet close-knit congregation of race car drivers, hot-rodders, and auto shops located in several rows of small warehouses behind the Kensington, Maryland, fire station. The rudimentary warehouses, first built in 1949, all had bay doors which made them perfect for car guys.

Numerous custom and specialized auto service and repair businesses were based in the Alley during the heyday of American hot-rodding, as were two of the Washington, DC, area’s most active and important hot rod clubs: the DC Dragons (in 1957 and 1958) and the Silver Spring Ram Rods (from 1962 to 1975).

Many individuals also called the Alley home; among these were some of the most innovative dragster, sports car, and stock car builders of the era, esteemed show car customizers, and successful race car drivers of every type. For several years in the 1960s, the Alley was also the only place on the East Coast between New York and Miami where one could buy a Ferrari.

Gasoline Alley is the story of the Alley and all its denizens. This story is presented in the context of what was going on in Maryland and the Washington, DC, metropolitan area from 1949 to 1975 in terms of auto racing and auto racing journalism, as well as more broadly.


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Trish Earnest: Memoir – blood on the walls

blood on the walls takes us from tranquil Mediterranean beaches to behind the walls of Maryland’s most notorious reformatory for wayward youth. It shows how the daughter of a high-ranking CIA official was torn from the only home she had ever known and desperately sought in substances the comfort that her closed-off family could not provide. Eventually Trish became a sober, loving, single mother whose job is to help troubled adolescents avoid being swallowed up by the life in which she was once engulfed.

“My hope is that my writing will in some small way give rise to hope and inspiration to others struggling with addiction and working toward recovery. It is also a story of families who are challenged with the move back to the U.S. after many years living abroad. Perhaps you will be inspired to tell your own story. I have learned through both painful and triumphant experiences that together we can do what we cannot do alone.”




La Rambla Stage Special Guest Speakers – Schedule

Location: Howard Avenue at Armory Avenue

10:30 to 11:15…… Eli August & the Abandoned Buildings – music (45 mins)

11:15 to 11:30……Welcome by Master of Ceremonies, Steve Piacente (15 mins)

11:30 to 11:50…….1st guest Cindy Lee Monroe, author of Kensington Maryland’s Gasoline Alley  (20 mins)

11:55 to 12:20……..2nd guest Dawit Gebremichael Habte, author of the memoir Gratitude in Low Voices (25 mins)

12:20 to 12:45……….Eli August & the Abandoned Buildings – music (25 mins)

12:50 to 1:20……..3rd guest Melissa Scholes Young, author of the novel Flood (30 mins)

1:25 to 1:50……….4th guest Trish Earnest, author of the memoir blood on the walls (25 mins)

1:55 to 2:15………. Eli August & the Abandoned Buildings – music (20 mins)

2:20 to 2:50……….5th guest Steve Piacente, author of the novel Pretender (30 mins)

2:55 to 3:25………6th guest Marc Morje Howard, author of Unusually Cruel: Prisons, Punishment, and the Real American Exceptionalism  (30 mins)

3:35 to 4:00 ………Eli August & the Abandoned Buildings – music